END OF AN ERA FOR DEBENHAMS AS FINAL STORE CLOSURES ANNOUNCED

Debenhams has announced it will shut its remaining stores by 15th May, closing the door on more than 200 years of trade on UK high streets. This means 49 more shops will now close, on top of the 52 due to close on 8th May. The Debenhams brand will continue online after being bought by retailer Boohoo for £55m in January.

The company traces its roots back to 1778 when William Clark opened a shop in London’s West End, selling fabrics, bonnets, and parasols. In 1813, William Debenham invested in the firm and it was renamed Clark & Debenham.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Debenhams has already announced that 52 shops will close on 8th May. The remaining sites will shut on either 12th May or 15th May. Some 12,000 workers will lose their jobs.

In 1950 Debenhams had the distinction of being the biggest department store in the UK with 110 stores. Over the years, Debenhams expanded at a rapid rate. In 2006 it announced plans to double its number of stores to 240 and was opening new shops as recently as 2017.

However, the chain had struggled for years with falling profits and rising debts, as more shopping moved online. It called in administrators twice in two years, most recently in April 2020.

But the coronavirus pandemic – which saw the enforced closure of non-essential retail outlets – proved to be the final blow for Debenhams and other rival retailers including Arcadia. Mike Ashley, who founded Sports Direct and also owns House of Fraser, had already made an offer for Debenhams after it was initially put up for sale in April last year. However, the takeover offer thought to be in the region of £125m, was rejected.

Then in December, final hopes of a rescue were crushed after the last remaining bidder JD Sports withdrew. Administrators announced they would start closing the remaining 124 stores after the attempts at saving the business failed.

In January Boohoo stepped in to buy the brand but not the shops, thereby signalling the end of Debenhams on the High Street.

Announcing the final closures, Debenhams said: “Over the next 10 days, Debenhams will close its doors on the High Street for the final time in its 242 year history. We hope to see you all one last time in the stores before we say a final goodbye to the UK High Street.”